This is part three in a series about the basis for human law. The points are being drawn from the earliest chapters of the Bible, which relate events that are 6,000 years old. The Holy Bible is the most authoritative ancient document on earth and deserves careful investigation, as it yields insights which are powerfully applicable today.
In the first two posts I have drawn attention to a range of observations which undergird principles impacting human law. There are yet more to observe, and so this third post builds on the points made previously, adding new insights into new principles.
Enter an Antagonist
In the third chapter of the Bible, Genesis 3, we meet a new character in the human drama. In Genesis 1 we meet Almighty God, who exists in different personalities, such as the “Spirit of God” (Genesis 1:2). We also meet man, made by God, in God’s image, and given dominion over all the other creatures which God made.
Then, in Genesis 3, we are introduced to an identity which is first seen as a snake. We discover that this personality is, in fact, a fallen angel. He is active and intent on tempting humans to rebel against their creator God and master.
We learn much about the character and activity of this identity in the simple record of the encounter between this devil and the woman.
The role of the devil as a negative influence, promoting self-indulgence and creating a breach between people and God. One of his main strategies is to promote doubt about the veracity of God’s Words. See how the devil questions God’s words, then accuses God of lying. This emphasis on words underscores their legal significance, as mentioned in previous posts on this topic.
“Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which Jehovah God had made. And he said to the woman, Yea, has God said, You shall not eat of any tree of the garden?” Genesis 3:1
“And the serpent said to the woman, You will not surely die: for God knows that in the day you eat thereof, then your eyes will be opened, and you will be as God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:4,5
Paying careful attention to words is a vital principle of legality. Eve mishandled God’s instructions and then chose to believe a lie. The consequences were devastating and irreversible.
When Eve and Adam ate of the forbidden fruit there were powerful consequences. Their internal perception changed immediately. Their personal state changed from that of innocence and blessing, to shame and curse. Their relationship with God was destroyed. Instead of blessing and joy they were filled with guilt and fear.
These outcomes reveal the moral power of sin. In a materialistic world people may think that all actions are equal. If what is deemed ‘evil’ can be committed without any visible consequence, then no harm has been done. But the record shows that evil actions have moral consequences, even if no physical harm has been done.
Millions of people live with that reality, even if they don’t admit it to themselves.
Eve was deceived and deluded, but her perception had no power. She could not create reality. She is not a ‘creator’ but a created being. She did not have the power to make reality by her thoughts, interpretations and perceptions. She came up against the ugly reality of her moral accountability and spiritual impotence.
Human delusion does not create reality, even if it seduces people to take a course of action in good faith.
Note also the internal moral consequences, impacting the inner condition of the person. Adam and Eve were profoundly impacted by their choices and actions. The internal impact was far beyond the natural events. This is tragically true for people today who engage in any immoral action. That also explains the state which people end up in when they have done something against God’s moral order, which should not have had any material effect.
The internal impact of our moral choices is as real, even if not more real than any external consequences which impact the natural surroundings.
Once Adam and Eve had eaten of the forbidden fruit and suffered tragic internal consequences, God came to speak with them. They could not face him, but hid themselves in the bushes.
When God came to meet with them He asked them questions. Firstly he asked Adam to come before him. This is the legal “summons”.
“And Jehovah God called to the man, and said to him, Where are you?” Genesis 3:9
Secondly, God interrogated Adam and Eve. This interrogation process
“And he said, Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded you that you should not eat?” Genesis 3:11
God had the unlimited right to interrogate people and hold people accountable. There was no way that Adam or Eve could have escaped this interrogation, since they were created as subjects of God, their sovereign.
Legal processes employ interrogation. Those with authority have the right to demand an answer. Any encounter with the legal system involves the summons to appear and the requirement that answers be given. This expectation is a standard element of having authority, as God has over us all.
Right to Remain Silent
Note that western citizens have ‘the right to remain silent’. Why would that be so? That right is embodied in their personal sovereignty. If they did not have personal sovereignty, an element of equality among other men, then answers could be demanded of them, no matter how much the answer might incriminate them.
Jesus Christ remained silent when interrogated by a Roman governor, Pontius Pilate.
“and he (Pilate) entered into the Praetorium again, and said to Jesus, Where do you come from? But Jesus gave him no answer.” John 19:9
Jesus, as God, was not required to ever answer a question put to him by man. When Pilate tried to impress Jesus with the power Pilate had over him, Jesus notified Pilate that the Roman official had no power over him except that which God gave him.
“Pilate therefore said to him, Don’t you speak to me? Don’t you know that I have power to release you, and have power to crucify you? Jesus answered him, You would have no power against me, except it were given you from above….” John 19:10,11
Note in this reply by Jesus, that human authority over another person is to be a divinely granted privilege. It is not something that people can take to themselves.
Once God had interrogated Adam and Eve, He then passed sentence. He spoke consequences over each of them, as punishment for their actions. God is the one who creates the sentence for wrong behaviour.
God prescribes not only the natural consequences of man’s actions, but the personal moral consequences as well. Moral failure is not measured by the material impact of the actions. While some people will say, “I didn’t hurt anyone”, and expect that therefore no crime was committed, God sees that the very intent of the heart has moral consequences and deserves judgement.
In God’s Ten Commandments we see the major actions which God sees as morally important. Among them is “giving honour” (honour your father and mother) and “covetousness” (not covet another person’s goods). These matters could be secret matters of the heart, having no impact on anyone or any material thing, and never being translated into actions. Yet they are forbidden.
“Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which Jehovah your God gives you.” Exodus 20:12
“You shall not covet your neighbour’s house, you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is your neighbour’s.” Exodus 20:17
God brings judgement upon people not just for their actions, but for the attitudes of their heart. Thus Jesus equated lust with the act of adultery. Its moral impact and the judgement it generates are the same either way.
“but I say to you, that every one that looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.” Matthew 5:28
A foundation of principles has now been identified. These are not the whole story, but they provide a basis for the development of human law. In future posts we will explore the development of human responsibility to judge other humans.